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Gray Barker and The Men In Black: They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers

Posted by Angela Spatafore.
May 25th, 2021

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Associate Curator for WV Books & Printed Resources & Rare Book Librarian

Long awaited reports on UFO’s, or UAPs (unidentified aerial phenomena), as the military defines them, may soon become a reality as early as June 1st, according to the story by Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute, (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) posted to NBC News yesterday, May 23. The American public has been taunted with tantalizing photographs, films and eye witness reports for decades.  Now the military, who began to hint a couple of years ago, that yes, in fact, they were studying UFO’s and extraterrestrial intelligence, may finally reveal their evidence for alien crafts in American airspace.

I hope the reports start in Clarksburg.

Clarksburg, the county seat of Harrison County, is in the north-central part of the state on Hwy 79 about 45 minutes from Morgantown.  Clarksburg has a great history.  Named for General George Rogers Clark, remembered for fighting against the British and Native Americans during the Indian Wars and American Revolution.  Earlier, mound builders in the Hopewell Culture established mounds near Clarksburg.  Early settlers formed communities and erected log cabins as early as 1772 and in 1785, the Virginia General Assembly voted to authorize Clarksburg as a town. 

None of that can hold a candle to one man, Braxton County native, Gray Barker, (1925 – 1984) an internationally recognized UFOlogist and his Saucerian Press.  Yes, you read that right, Saucerian Books, located in Clarksburg, takes its name from flying saucers.

Gray Barker smiling next to the cover of his book, "They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers."

Barker, from the small town of Riffle, located about an hour outside Clarksburg, graduated from Glenville State College in 1947.  He taught English for a while in Maryland after graduation.  In 1952, while working as a theater booker in Clarksburg, he started collecting stories about the Flatwoods Monster.  This unexplained presence has been described as a “man-like figure with a round, red face surrounded by a pointed, hood-like shape” wearing a green outfit with claw like hands.

An artistic rendition of the Flatwoods monster that includes an image detailing the scale of the monster to an adult human male. The monster is nearly three times as tall as the adult.
Note the scale.

Intrigued by all things weird, Barker wrote an article about the Flatwoods monster and flying saucers and submitted it to FATE Magazine, a magazine devoted to paranormal phenomena.  According to Wikipedia, FATE was co-founded in 1948 by Raymond A. Palmer (editor of Amazing Stories) and Curtis Fuller.  Still in publication today, FATE is now the longest-running magazine devoted to the paranormal.

For Barker, that was fate indeed!  His article, “The Monster and the Saucer,” was accepted and published in January 1953.  From there, Barker began writing regularly about UFOs for the magazine Space Review, published by the International Flying Saucer Bureau.  Later on, once his career as a sci-fi author was established, Barker founded his own press in Clarksburg, the Saucerian Press, to publish his bulletin, The Saucerian, and his books.    

Cover of FATE magazine's February 1955 publication with headlines such as, "True Stories of the Strange and the Unknown" and "The Origin of Baal." Cover includes three scantily-dressed females climbing up a set of stairs to the open doors of a statue of a winged ox. A man in robes stands off to the side, watching the women.
Cover of "The Collected Issues of Saucerian" by Gray Barker. Cover features an image of three flying saucers.

In his 1956 book They Knew Too Much About Flying Saucers, Gray Barker introduced the concept of the Men in Black to UFO folklore.  Yes, Gray Barker invented the Men In Black!  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones can thank Gray Barker for their roles in this 1997 film!

Cover of "They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers" by Gray Barker
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in "Men in Black" posing with blaster guns.

Gray Barker’s book, The Silver Bridge, linked the collapse of the Silver bridge in Point Pleasant with the appearance of the Mothman, a winged being with large red eyes that had been seen in Point Pleasant prior to the bridge collapse. 

The Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant

The Silver Bridge was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge built in 1928 and named for the color of its aluminum paint. The bridge carries U.S. Route 35 over the Ohio River, connecting Point Pleasant and Gallipolis, Ohio.

Nearly two weeks before Christmas, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge collapsed under the weight of rush-hour traffic, killing 46 people. Two of the victims were never found. Investigation of the wreckage pointed to the failure of a single eyebar in the suspension chain.  Investigations proved that the bridge was carrying much heavier loads than originally designed and was poorly maintained.

Many are familiar John Keel’s book, The Mothman Prophecies, which spawned the 2011 movie of the same name, starring Richard Gere.  But Barker was got there first – his book preceded Keel’s book by five years. 

Cover of "The Silver Bridge" by Gray Barker. Cover features a white minimalist line drawing of the Silver Bridge with a white figure standing on a hill above the bridge on a black background.
Cover of "The Mothman Prophecies" by John A. Keel. Cover features an artist's depiction of Mothman on a tree glaring at a man and a woman.

Can’t wait until June 1st?  There’s a couple of local places with collections of Gray Barker’s publications.  The Gray Barker Room at the Waldomore, the Clarksburg-Harrison County Public Library holds a collection of Gray Barker’s writings, as well as files of correspondence between Barker and notable figures in the UFO field from the 1950s to the early 1980s such as George Adamski, Howard Menger, James Moseley, and others. The room is a minor tourist stop for UFO enthusiasts.

The Waldomore in Clarksburg

Or stick closer to home and make an appointment to see Barker’s books published by his Saucerian Press at the West Virginia and Regional History Center.  We’ll be happy to share with you!

In the meantime, I wonder if the History Channel is planning to renew the cancelled Project Blue Book?  The time is right!

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